Christopher Hyde, Author . Onyx $7.50 (401p) ISBN 978-0-451-41065-8

Based on real child mutilation murders and extensive historical research, Hyde's (The Second Assassin, etc.) grim procedural takes place over the course of five days in November 1963. A killer whose M.O. includes kidnapping, raping, flaying and dissecting his young victims before piecing them back together like puppets, has resurfaced, but his rampage threatens to go unchecked after John Kennedy is assassinated. The only detective on the Dallas police force who isn't preoccupied with the assassination is Ray Duval, who happens to be dying from congestive heart failure. With one week left on the job and a determination to find the deranged killer, Ray digs into the past to solve the present-day murders of a 12-year-old black girl and an antiques dealer, both mutilated and dumped at the local junkyard within days of each other. Flashbacks from Ray's troubled childhood and days as a soldier lend dimension to this straightforward story, but the pace doesn't perk up until another girl goes missing and the clock begins to wind down on Ray's health. While some of the book's macabre elements are clichéd (i.e., the flaying of the skin from the victims' bodies and the killer's craving for absolution), Hyde manages to capture the essence of a changing world. (Feb. 4)

Forecast:Though the book's patriotic cover art makes it a likely selection for Fourth of July displays, it may receive an additional push in November, which is the 40th anniversary of JFK's assassination.

Reviewed on: 01/27/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
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